--First of all, a good and proper WOOOOOOOOOOHOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!
--No, wait, make that WOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOHOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO
--Seriously, you couldn't ask for a better confidence builder for the youngsters. And the way they did it too. Lock-down defense in the closing seconds (though Allen did get that open look off the pick, but he missed so all if forgiven) and free throws. Clutch free throws! How long has it been since we've seen that out of the Blazers? Outlaw, Zach, Ime, even Jarrett...well done on that count.
--The very, very first thing that became apparent is how much better the offensive spacing is this year. Last season you'd see two guys posting up in the same spot, people running right down the middle of a play (bringing their defender along with them to disrupt things), and all kinds of busted sets with guys running nowhere or standing around clueless. This game was near immaculate when it came to that. Our guys weren't double teamed as easily. There were open passing lanes so when guys were doubled they didn't have to force it. There was room to drive. Smarter players maybe? Smarter offensive basketball in the halfcourt definitely. Make no mistake: this is the main reason the field goal percentage was so high. (Well that and the Sonics' well-published defensive ineptitude.)
--We made a nice run in the first half with our veteran bench guys. They really complemented the starters and settled things down when the game threatened to get out of hand. Juan Dixon and Travis Outlaw deserve some kudos for their offensive play and even Magloire made a decent shot or two.
--There was a LOT more talking on defense out there. You could here the guys yelling out to each other. That never happened last year.
--Other than off turnovers, the transition defense was very alert in the first half. The guys were getting back quickly off of misses. This lapsed a bit in the second half as people got tired. The transition defense off turnovers was uniformly ugly all night and is something upon which the Blazers will have to drill. Too many guys got stuck watching or lamenting the turnover and by the time they looked up the Sonics were ten feet past them.
--The halfcourt defense, while not exactly sterling, at least was mostly free of the ridiculous triple-teams and running around aimlessly that we saw so much of last year. First of all we didn't need as much help so guys could stay home on their men. Second of all when we did help it was usually from the right spot and with purpose. Again, they did a good job keeping their heads in the game.
--Our "small ball" lineup matched up well with the Sonics.
--We kept our turnovers fairly low, though the Sonics did score off a disproportionate number of them.
--We also gave up a lot of second chance shots and points.
--Our guards are still mystified by picks. Almost any screen will get an opponent free as we saw repeatedly up to and including the aforementioned Ray Allen three point attempt in the closing seconds.
--After a shaky start, Randolph really got control of himself. He left off the jumpers for a while and started penetrating and posting and that really got his game going. What's more he drew a ton of fouls, which is where he scored a good portion of his points. Also if you Tivoed the game, rewind to 3:32 left in the 3rd quarter and then to 2:57 left in the 3rd. You will see a sight that heretofore has been as rare as a five-leaf clover. Zach Randolph set a good, deep pick and actually held it until the dribbler got past him. The first time it was Socks, the second Juan Dixon. Both guards hit pretty jumpers off of those screens. Bravo Z-Bo. The one quibble I had is that, despite the 10 total rebounds at the end of the game, he disappeared on the boards during parts of the night. We need more consistent help than that if we're to hang with better teams.
--I'm sure people will be singing the praises of Brandon "Socks" Roy all over the place. The single most impressive moment of the game came late when he guarded Ray Allen single-handedly, slipped a Nick Collison pick, and basically shut the All-Star down with the game on the line. I saw all the points, the ball-handling, and the smart play too, but that right there is why the guy is special.
--Travis Outlaw didn't look nearly as lost this game, did he? He was smart every time he touched the ball and at least not incompetent in moving without it on both ends of the floor. He provided energy, which is his role. He used his body and leaping ability to gain advantage. It's only one game, but it's an improvement.
--Magloire wasn't bad, neither was Przybilla. Both set some nice screens and got some nice boards. I think we'll need to see a little more out of each as time goes on. Magloire in particular seemed to be out of place on defense a fair amount. And, by the way, he is an absolutely impotent shot blocker.
--Juan Dixon, despite some lapses on defense, still kept the mid-quarter continuity going with his uncanny ability to score when nobody else can. The good spacing tonight helped him more than anybody save Roy. 8 of 10 shooting ain't bad, eh?
--Jarrett Jack was a mixed bag. On the one hand he didn't kill us and actually set the offense decently. On the other hand Roy took over much of his ball handling in the second half. Jack didn't penetrate or expose Ridnour nearly as much as he could have. Ridnour also torched him. Along with Dixon, Jack found himself in no-man's land several times on defense.
--We still don't have that Chris Wilcox kind of physically imposing, tough guy intimidator. You saw a little bit of how valuable that can be tonight.
--For those not watching the Seattle feed on dish, the Sonics folks did a brief interview with B-Roy's parents. For lack of a better word, it was really cute. They seemed genuinely happy that their son was a Blazer and playing in his first game. It looked like Christmas for them. And it wasn't in that, "Take that world, we made it big now!" kind of way. They just seemed like genuine, nice, even slightly goofy people who were really, really ecstatic. It's easy to see where Socks got his charm.
It's one game--a game against a poor team that's likely to exact revenge next time we meet--but who cares? It's a win, baby. It's a win.
Now everybody raise a glass to being undefeated!